I’d say this was the turning point:
After an ugly, ugly first half in which David Lee scored 16 points on 6-7 shooting, the Raptors played with a different kind of energy in the third quarter. At halftime, they were down 47-38 and were shooting 33.3 percent. In the third, they shot 47.4 percent, held the warriors to 11 points on 5-22 shooting (that’s 22.7 percent, if you were wondering) and didn’t send them to the line. That play, perhaps the highlight of the season, put Toronto up for the first time since it was 10-9. Golden State would not recapture the lead.
Aside from that being just a beautiful play and the moment the Raptors took the lead for good, that play is important because it illuminates the two most encouraging takeaways from this game. First, there’s Ed Davis fronting David Lee, deflecting the post entry pass and saving it to a teammate. That’s the kind of hustle play that Dwane Casey wants from him. That’s what will keep him on the floor. It was not a big scoring night for Davis — two points on 1-4 shooting in just under 22 minutes — but it was certainly not a bad game. He had 12 rebounds, five offensive, and he earned a few minutes of fourth quarter playing time.
Finishing that play was DeMar DeRozan, who had an all-around excellent night. This was needed. After a string of strong games, he was a non-factor Friday against Memphis. Coming into this game I was sort of worried — Dominic McGuire is capable of shutting people down. But whether it was McGuire, Dorell Wright or Monta Ellis, DeRozan kept his cool. He didn’t sink into the background like he did against Memphis, not forcing anything but staying aggressive all night. He finished with 25 points on 9-17 shooting, going 6-6 from the line and adding six rebounds in just under 46 minutes. Yeah, just under 46. He played the entirety of the first quarter and the second half and was tasked with guarding Ellis for the majority of it. Maybe look for him to play a tad fewer minutes tonight.
With just under two minutes left in the game, Amir Johnson banged knees with Ellis. Johnson clutched at his knee, scaring the bejesus out of me. He’d played a solid game: 11 points and 13 rebounds including six and six in the fourth. In typical Amir Johnson fashion, he eventually got up on his own and tried to insist on staying in the game. That didn’t fly, as he went to the bench to get the knee looked at. Turned out he was okay and he returned for the last 36 seconds. Phew.
This was a good win, as it demonstrated an ability to bounce back from a bad first half. But it was not pretty. Toronto shot 37.2 percent, Golden State shot 36.3. This wasn’t because both teams played awesome defense, although I will credit the Raptors for making the Warriors take 18 long twos. Monta Ellis shot 0-7 on those. Jerryd Bayless was not able to repeat his performance from the Grizzlies game, missing all five jumpers he took. He did manage to get to the line, however. Leandro Barbosa had a typical 18 points on 16 shots off the bench, Linas Kleiza had an off-night and barely played in the fourth quarter, and Jose Calderon was fairly invisible save for a nice over the shoulder pass to James Johnson and a bounce pass to Bayless on the break in the first quarter. Johnson continues to look significantly better than he did this time last year.
A few quick notes on the Warriors:
- This was gorgeous:
- Watching Andris Biedrins play basketball makes me very sad.
- So happy Ekpe Udoh is the starter now. Not just because Biedrins is benched; Udoh is immensely fun to watch on the defensive end. He’s active, smart and is good for a pretty block or two every game. He’s slowly coming along offensively, too.
- The Raptors were extremely lucky that Nate Robinson took so many of the injured Stephen Curry’s minutes.
- Why Are We Trying to Run Jose Out of Town?
- Gameday: Raptors vs Magic – Feb. 5/12